Dear Diary... November 2018

Friday 30th November - The Stafford Switcheroo

So tonight for the journey up to Manchester, I was trying something a little different (and in fact, cheaper too!) - so normally the 1840 train from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly is the one I try to get, but that these days has become expensive - even with the discount I get, it's £33.60 (£42 normally). And so I looked into other options, and what did come up as a cheaper one was to go to Stafford on the 1833 train (for £13.60 including discount, £17 without) and then on the 2003 from Stafford to Manchester via CrossCountry, and in first class, for £11.80. So with discounts, £8.20 cheaper, and without, it'd be £13.20, which is pretty good.

So after work it was a relatively good walk to the bus stop, and avoided most of the rain that had happened during the day, and then it was on the 18 bus to Euston station. I arrived in good time and even had time for coffee at Pret a Manger before then checking the departure boards and my phone for being able to board at the right time. Sure enough the platform was announced and off I went down to Platform 5 for the 1833 departure that would be ending at Liverpool Lime Street. iPod on, KMFDM blasting out including the ace "Krank" (which is tune of the day for definite and all good.)

I did have a ten minute changeover at Stafford which normally is enough time. The first stop at Rugby did show around 6-7 minutes late though, so was a little concerned and checking National Rail. However as it transpired the CrossCountry train was coming from Exeter and was both late arriving at and departing from Birmingham New Street. In the end the train came into Stafford at 1959 (6 minutes late) but the 2003 departure would have been makeable even with a platform change - the fact it came at 2007 was a bit of nice extra leeway.

It was pretty nice in first class in CrossCountry anyway - the seats were comfortable, and the staff were all good. In fact I ended up with some nice freebies - a Danish pastry, some posh kettle chips and some sparkling water all round - not bad at all for around an hour's journey and it was also pretty quiet too - the extra comfort was really nice all round. I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly at the far end of one of the platforms as it was behind another train on the same platform, and soon met up with The Love In My Heart who had parked up at the station to wait for me.

We headed back to The Love's place and Brian the cat was actually all chilled out and even wanting a fuss over, which was nice, and we had a nice drink and watched some Gogglebox later on. It definitely was a good one primarily due to the different programmes commented on, and for The Love and I there are certain ones which make us giggle - Jenny and Lee for one but also Ellie and Izzi from Leeds as well - I think their Northernness appeals to me as a true Northerner anyway. And onwards to a lovely weekend too.

Thursday 29th November - Eureka!

It was a day when I felt on a roll and had one of those great Eureka! moments. No, scrub that. Actually, I had two, and it was really impressive to see what was able to be done to get there. The first one was down to some Excel templates and a toolbar which some users claimed wasn't working for them. I managed to disocver that the main XLAM macro for the toolbar was actually calling a series of XLTM templates for some of the charts, and some Word documents in another folder for the documentation. Put all of that together correctly, and it all worked properly.

I had documented all that and sent that amongst the team so that they had all the information shared accordingly, and one of the team got back to me later stating that they had got it working for another member of staff, so that showed that all my testing out and checking through was correct. The key was that the XLAM macro was saved in the new Excel macro format, meaning that it was effectively a set of XML related files all compressed, so - top tip - open that with 7-Zip and explore the folder structure to see what you can find. Saves tons of time in the long run, I can tell you.

The second one was that I overcame the hurdle for the SCCM reports for MBAM correctly, and actually had all the reports showing the correct compliance information required. Did that make me happy? Hell yes it did. In fact, I'm going to fully document that as it might be useful for others, but in effect I knew that if I only had one report to import from the CM\Reports folder in the MBAM install folder, SCCM played ball. I then decided that as you could import the other RDL files into SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) there must be a way that the report info gets manipulated in some way.

And it does: taking a careful look at those shows it references the configuration baseline and the confguration items which get added in SCCM when you do the integration piece. The report file injects that into the RDL file on upload when the executable runs, and references the standard SCCM shared data source for the reporting data source. However if the integration times out, it's possibly because it can't add the items into the RDL during the import process. So in that case, I thought, what if I could get the actual names of those items from the XML descriptions?

That done, it was then a case of taking the three RDL files that I needed to add, amend the RDL information so that the reference to the baselines and the items were referencing the name it is given in the XML file, and from that imported the report. Once I'd changed the data source to be the SCCM data source and optionally changed the collection ID to be the right one... it all worked! Wow. I was mega pleased, especially as all four reports that you need are all now doing what they should do as well. So one down, many to go, and tune of the day is the excellent "We Are The Champions" by Queen - as that's what I felt like once it was done...

Wednesday 28th November - Pressing Onwards

So it was a long day today at work, primarily because I was attempting to get to the bottom of a number of issues, and at the same time working out a possible plan going forward in terms of some of the testing that I need to do. And to be honest, there's certainly more questions than answers as it happens, but that's to be expected too. In fact I had another look at some of the integration issues I've noted with MBAM, and in fact the SCCM reports part. Everything else works, the first report uploads, but then it just stops - but if you only include the one report, success is yours. Does make me wonder how and why and even the support call I had logged with Microsoft was potentially having them stumped. Still got some ideas though.

In fact the late finish overall meant that it was certainly a lot busier at the tube station, primarily because of the Tottenham v Inter Milan match at Wembley later. I decided that going the other way was fine as it was against the flow, so meant I got to Farringdon and headed on the Brighton train fine towards East Croydon easily enough. To be honest, it was chucking it down and the weather outside didn't look so good either, and the rain lashed against the window as I was heading homewards.

I had been out at lunchtime earlier to get a couple of Christmas presents, and noted that Oxford Street was very well and brightly lit with all shop displays, and no doubt that later on the brightness was going to be something nice at night, seeing all the festive lights. In fact the night before I'd headed on the bus to Victoria to avoid the rain from work, and noted the Winter Wonderland by Hyde Park looking pretty festive too. I must admit I'm tempted to try the Winterville thing at Clapham Common when The Love In My Heart comes down in a week or so's time.

The Love is all good too, having spoken to her, and we both decided to watch The Apprentice later on - I'd not seen much of this series and to be brutally honest, I can see why I hadn't. The task was to effectively check through the warehouse of goods and decide which one that you would be pitching on the telly, live on one of the many shopping channels, in this case TJC, which operates like good old Price Drop TV used to do (if you remember that far back!) - and certainly, to prep and present wasn't going to be easy, but forgetting the item you want to promote for the advert?

And yet that team still won based on the fact that they sold some other items, despite not getting any of the expensive gem items turned into sales. Bit harsh maybe to let the losing PM Tom go straight away, but having failed three times, he was in no-man's land. I was glad that the annoying woman Jackie went - she had set Tom up for the fall and to be honest, was too over the top and all me me me. Don't like that. Would have been fun if it was a triple firing and Khadija had been sent home too, but there's a fighter in her too (which couild come across the wrong way.) Still, the theme tune based on the classic Romeo and Juliet classical piece is tune of the day as it reminds me of a famous Commodore 64 game..

Tuesday 27th November - Wi-Fi and Hi-Fi

So I've been working on attempting to resolve an issue that appears to be Windows 10 related, but also possibly related with the wireless access points that we have in operation. This potentially could be an annoyance if we were to roll things out as they are, so thought it best to dedicate some time to running some tests. In effect, our corporate wi-fi network has multiple access points, all configured with the same SSID, so normally provided you're in range, a connection should happen, and be good to go. And on the Windows 7 kit, all appears to perform as you would expect.

But.. not in Windows 10 it seems. The hardware is exactly the same (mainly Intel 7260 and 8265 wireless adapters) and the access points are also the same too. However, what I did note in a comparison between drivers and features is that of course the Windows 10 driver has more features, such as for example support for Miracast wireless casting, and additional settings for throughput and the likes. Having checked this further, it does appear that some of the related issues are that when you say for example lock the device, roam to another access point, and then say unlock, even at the unlock screen you can see that reconnection hasn't happened.

I then started to note the times of when I roamed and when the disconnections happened and compared this with events in the event log, and noticed this little error: 6105 - deauth after EAPOL key exchange sequence - and this was often when I had moved around rooms too. A bit of research on that error seemed to indicate that it was related to a mixture of both the Intel wireless card not effectively authenticating the right way round, and in addition, the roaming setting on the AP not properly configured for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 (which would of course explain why it would work on Windows 7 without issues..)

I've therefore asked if we can get a copy of the log files and config files from one of the access points in question so that I can analyse accordingly and see if we can put forward some suitable recommendations to go forward. Having read a couple of further things later on I spotted that perhaps there's a 802.11r protocol enabled on the APs which may not be being liked, so some have seen success with that turned off, so definitely a few avenues well worth exploring to be honest.

I got home later and it was nice to relax and play some tunes on the proper hi-fi system I have, all separates and all very nice. In fact because I've been getting some of the DVD-Audio discs transferred digitally, it was good to go back and play them in full advanced resolution 5.1 surround of course. But in addition, there's also the Super Audio CDs I have (as my Blu-Ray player has SACD support) and so gave the iconic Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells album a blast that way - and it sounded ace, so tune of the day there.

Monday 26th November - No Time Like The Present

I thought that tonight would be a good opportunity to get some more Christmas presents ordered, especially as a few more friends and family had sent me along some gift ideas, and on top of that, I hadn't really had the chance to do any shopping over the weekend due to being with friends and having some quality time. I could have of course ventured after work down Oxford Street but that might have been pretty busy and also full of people still hankering after bargains on what they call Cyber Monday (meh) so I wasn't too meithered - and this way of course I could be in the comfort of my own home and chilled out, so there is an advantage to that actually.

So, I knew what I needed, and as per usual, I normally try and do a bit of price comparison between sites, taking into account the all important postage and packing on top, and indeed if the item I'm after is actually in stock or not (often a decision which helps make my mind up.) As it transpired for a couple of presents this was indeed a deciding factor: sometimes the price was the same at two different retailers but if you didn't have stock in one of them - effectively game over. In some cases one of the presents was also only available at one place, so you'd then check for any discount codes too - just in case.

In fact one thing that people often forget to do is to use cashback sites like Top Cashback for this sort of thing. I've used that for a fair amount of time now and have managed to accumulate plenty of cash back over time, which came in handy actually as I cashed back around £70 or so to my bank account that I'd earned over the last few months, which came in handy for the likes of getting some online presents. It also could even be a factor as say 5-6% cashback on an item, which you'll get later on, may reduce the overall cost price of the item you're after too - well worth considering actually.

So with plenty of orders done, the spreadsheet I have where I tick off what I have bought (and wrapped) as presents is taking shape. Yes, I know it's pretty sad that I do that, but at the same time it does mean I can keep myself organised and be able not to duplicate effort, but also to know where I stand with what I have. Unusually one of the first ones I bought this year was actually for The Love In My Heart, as primarily other people normally have given me suitable ideas by then. But we shall see how that all goes. In the meantime, tune of the day is the epic "It Will End Here" from the new The Fallen EP by Gary Numan - it sounds ace!

Talking of The Love, she had had a bit of a early evening with Brian the cat. Brian was all settled on his pouffle when who turns up outside but the local tabby cat, who then proceeded to go to The Love's bedroom and play tappy tap on the window. Naturally this does stress out Brian a bit, who then hisses and snarls accordingly to say "oi! My Mummy!" but that tabby is not normally for moving, so can be a little bit of a standoff. I just wanted it to be all calm for Brian so he and Mummy could have cuddles, awww. He is so cute sometimes.

Sunday 25th November - Homeward Bound

Admittedly, I did have a very good sleep overnight, and it was nice to get up and refresh and have a well earned coffee. Match of the Day was on repeat so we watched that and also then had some very nice sausage barms for breakfast whilst watching the EFL highlights from yesterday on Quest. Two of our friends support their local teams (Sunderland and Doncaster Rovers respectively) so that was of interest to see the goals in their respective away draws yesterday. In fact all four teams we support were away, Manchester City having tonked West Ham 4-0 and Liverpool winning 3-0 at Watford, so all good there.

With the Metro possibly not still operating properly I decided to leave a little earlier to head back to Newcastle station and would let my friend know if all running okay - thankfully it was, and so let them know all was good. In fact I actually sat at the very front carriage of the Metro which allows you to almost pretend you're driving the thing (much like the DLR!) so that was interesting to see the birds eye view as you headed along then into the tunnel to Gateshead, and over the River Tyne and into the Central Station itself. I had a fair bit of time to spare before the train so a coffee in Costa was mine and in a warm cosy waiting room too.

It wasn't too long before the train arrived, and as it was starting in Newcastle this meant I could get on, get my seat and not have to rush too much either, and settle in with the iPod as well. In fact I seemed to have more leg room in the seat I was in, so epic win there, and the train left on time through the incessant rain - but with more stops including Durham, Northallerton and Doncaster and Peterborough, as well as York and Darlington that had been the case on the way up. I did whack on some KMFDM so "Krank" by them is tune of the day - it totally kicks proverbial backside.

The countryside sped past as the train was keeping on time nicely, and arrived at Kings Cross dead on time. I headed over to St Pancras and to await the train back to East Croydon. It claimed it was a 12 coach train but oh no, it was an 8. I did get a seat but at London Bridge it got very packed indeed, so much so that people were standing in the aisles as if it was a Monday morning commute. Not ideal at all, although I suspect some of that was from an earlier service recovery with an incident happening on one of the trains.

I reflected back on such a good weekend, and knew that was exactly what I needed, a chance to recharge but also quality time with quality friends, and that's a real bonus to have let me tell you. I think too that you often need to realise where you are and how lucky you are, and certainly I know I'm lucky in a lot of respects too. Here's to the next one, which is looking likely it'll be at mine, and that'll be a different change to do so and the first time I'll host one in the new place...

Saturday 24th November - South Shields Weekender, Day 2

It was a good night's sleep all round on the sofa bed, and after getting myself up and getting a well earned shower, it was good to have a coffee and relax with everyone in the morning. Breakfast was all good with some sausage barms going down a treat, and it was also good to see some Soccer AM for the first time in ages - however the new presenter that they have these days is totally bobbins, and the only thing that saves it is Jimmy Bullard (honestly.) Add to that Olly Murs actually being half decent in some of the challenges later on, again amazingly enough.

We headed off to the Metro station to get to South Shields and onwards to The Dunes for some tenpin bowling, which was two games for the price of one (so we'd booked four games). However the Metro was suffering all sorts of delays due to some software problems with the signalling, and so we knew it was going to be ages before a service turned up. As such, a quick decision was made to get a taxi ordered to get us there, and it was okay but the taxi car itself really did need some overhaul - it wasn't the nicest vehicle ever and looked like it shouldn't have been roadworthy! We did get there okay though.

We had to wait at the bar a little bit as we'd got slightly early ahead of our 12:30 booking, but got ourselves sorted with a lane, but as we started to play the first game we noted that often the pins were taking ages to return, and a couple of occasions we had to get someone to sort out the pin return properly. At the end of the first game we requested a lane transfer and although we had to take the first two to three frames in the second game still in the original lane, sure enough we got a transfer all sorted and that played a lot better, which also got us into the flow of things quite nicely.

In fact, over the four games, we got better each time, and the last one we all scored over 100 points each with one of our friends smashing it with the best score of the day and a well deserved win. I didn't win a single game but was scoring okay, and did get three strikes in the final game so was reasonably pleased. The key thing was that we were all enjoying ourselves too, so that was definitely a plus, and throughout there were lots of Christmas songs played (I mean, it's November, come on!) including the classics of Slade, Shakin' Stevens and so on, but also a horrible cover version of the Wizzard classic which deserves to be in one of the worst cover versions ever...

It was on from near the seaside and towards the centre of South Shields, stopping off along the way at the very nice and relaxed The Marine pub - with some good local real ale in there. Unfortunately the pool table was occupied or else we'd have had some games of pool, but was good to relax and chill out nonetheless. We walked back down the Ocean Road and towards South Shields station, and the Metro was at least running now, so we got up to the station platform and headed on the Metro to Gateshead, where it had started to absolutely wee it down with rain (and continued to do so most of the evening..)

We did head downhill and under the railway and to Station East, which was really nice actually. We had some good ale in there and they'd expanded under the arches into a nice cosy warm space, and that certainly was appreciated. Looks like they do comedy nights too and stuff like that, so worth knowing. We did then head down to the front of the River Tyne on the Gateshead side and head insde the By The River Brewery and Tap. Lots of nice ales inside there (although mainly keg, boo!) and also they did their drinks in third and two-third pint measures only. I did have the pretty nice Goodbye Eric ale, and they had it on keg too, so my friend had got that and noticed the difference between the two.

We did look around the street food market next door which was covered over, and with warm log fires for outside, which was good as it was a tad cold and wet, and that looked very nice - I can imagine that being packed out in warmer weather. We got a seat outside the By The River tap under the veranda, although with the rain dripping off wasn't always brilliant. It was then a dash over the low level swing bridge onto the Newcastle side and to the Hop and Cleaver pub. We managed to get a nice comfortable table and space, and because a fair number of the rooms are small it felt less noisy too which was good.

In fact it was that nice, we stayed here for two drinks instead of one as we had got a table and it definitely did feel rather good and chilled out. They even had some decent tunes playing in the background too, so the likes of "She Bangs The Drums" by The Stone Roses were being played (make that Manchester classic tune of the day) and other stuff like James, Joy Division, Kaiser Chiefs etc too. I even had a really nice porter in there that felt more like a session beer too, so all really good and definitely well worth enjoying the time we had in there, before it was back in a taxi to our friend's place, and having some pizza and watching Match of the Day. All in all, a cracking day and another great time together.

Friday 23rd November - South Shields Weekender, Day 1

It was nice to have a lie in this morning, but even nicer for the first time in around four to five months, not heading in to work! Oh no. I was off to the North East for a weeknd of fun, retro gaming, and numerous nice ales with a few good friends of mine. I really look forward to those weekends primarily because of the fact that it's not often we can all get together because of the relative distances we all live from each other, but also that it's always good to catch up in general and just be four good friends having a laugh together.

Before I set off for East Croydon train station, I noted that the interview I recorded the other night was made available. So if you're a retro gamer who has fond memories of the Commodore 64 in particular, The Retro Hour podcast episode 149 now has an interview with yours truly. It was really good to do and I was particularly pleased that I managed to get a fair bit of stuff covered at the same time. It was nerve wracking but I hope it comes across well enough, and I made sure I had a copy saved to the phone ready for listening in full on the train (to sanity check it!) and also for the friends later on.

I got to St Pancras and then headed next door to Kings Cross, in good time for the 1200 train to Newcastle. The train left on time but appeared to be on a go slow between Retford and Doncaster. As it turned out, there was overhead line damage and as such trains had to go slower. The train I was on was delayed a bit, but other trains which had left earlier when I checked had been delayed by an hour and a half, so definitely I got off lightly really. It was then waiting behind other trains at the likes of York and Darlington before finally arriving into Newcastle thirty one minutes late, which of course is Delay Repay territory (so note made to claim.)

I headed down to the Metro station, touched in with the Pop card (all good) and headed on the Metro to Simonside, and then it was a short walk to my friend's place. Everyone else was already there, so all was good and we were able to catch up and have a good natter. I mentioned the podcast and we managed to get that played later on, and they were all really pleased how it turned out, which was good. We also had some very nice curry for tea as well which went down a treat, and set us all nicely up for the evening too.

The rest of the evening was spent being thoroughly entertained and chilled out, watching some of the Commodore 64 demos from the recent X party demo competition, playing a few games of darts with the loser of each set of throws having to drink this ale with chilli pepper flavour in, and believe me, it wasn't the nicest ever if you lost! We also were able to play some old school Commodore 64 tunes in the background as well which was really good, which set the tone nicely.

We later headed off to a local takeaway for some later night food. I had the chicken and sweetcorn pizza which was actually pretty nice and crispy all round, and with everyone else also enjoying food, we were able to relax and listen to some tunes as well, and that was a good way to wind down the remainder of the evening. Tune of the day is actually a number of them, all taken from the excellent Commodore 64 demo by Bonzai called "Unboxed" which was really enjoyable both technically, and especially musically.

Thursday 22nd November - Testing Times

So I spent a fair amount of today undertaking some application testing to ensure that a number of applications which are packaged and included in the Windows 10 build, plus some additional applications that I've assigned to myself for testing, effectively work properly as they should do. I'm really grateful that we have a really good test manager who knows her stuff, and in days gone by, also used to use a ZX Spectrum way back when so knows her old school gaming as well (I was talking about the forthcoming weekend for one..)

In effect, for a fair number of tests I was doing, it was effectively a smoke test to see if the basic functionality would work, ie: does the program launch correctly, does it do what we're supposed to do, and in addition to that, what else would work correctly with the simplest of functionality. In the long term this is the basis for then ensuring that business users are then able to test things correctly as well. Of course that does mean that we'd need to go through similar rigorous testing properly, but best to do these things right!

In fact I had spotted that one effective run issue with one program was down to outside factors with the current configuration and multi factor authentication, which was interesting to note. I've effectively added that as a bug and that's in effect a case of that some of the other tests for the same application would be blocked because it can't be done. A colleague also had the same thing happen too so that was a definite bonus for me to be able to see it wasn't just me!

On the way home I was heading over to the Purley Way retail park to collect a parcel that I'd ordered online and click and collect was in operation. There's a few advantages to this: your parcel is always nicely shrinkwrapped so that the contents aren't a problem inside, and it means that it's usually stored safe and not on the shelf with everything else, so pretty good. The staff inside said store were a little slow to the click and collect counter, although the person that did assist was helpful, so good to see.

With parcel collected it was then a walk to the big Sainsburys where I decided that as I'd now bought a fair number of Christmas presents that wrapping and also gift tags were the order of the day, especially as unlike Boots they've kept the 3 for 2 thing going which means more for less, and a really good selection as well generally. It does mean I can get cracking, so with the likes of Gary Numan's ace "Love Hurt Bleed" in the background (make that tune of the day) I'll get on with it...

Wednesday 21st November - Changing Things Around

So it was a change of plan (of sorts today). We had our team meeting at work and that all went very well, and everyone was really pulling together nicely despite the fact that we had so much work on and that a lot of us had battled through some migration times and had had to really go for it in terms of extra time committed. I definitely can tell that there's a real sense of being able to have someone to support you, and we're lucky in that on the whole our line manager does that - I get on well with him and respect his professionalism, which really does make a difference.

Anyway, I did some investigation and testing into why some of the servers that were scheduled to install their relevant Windows updates hadn't done so over the time that our server team and I had allocated for the maintenance window the night before. Most of them did work correctly and it was good to see a pretty high level of compliance overall, and for some of them that didn't, it was an easy thing to spot because of the error codes being returned: such as for example a lack of disk space being one thing which would also lead to other things being unesolved too. It's good though to note that most of them were resolvable nicely.

I also managed to get some further checks done in terms of ensuring that the MBAM implementation was indeed storing the recovery keys correctly and that it was able to effectively show them if you queried them in the help desk portal. Definitely from my side I could see that the data in the database was present, and that the relevant key IDs and keys matched with a field showing you if someone had requested the recovery key as well, good to spot that overall and shows data is being transformed there, so a definite plus for me.

I spent time this afternoon with one of our consultants who was looking at potentially adding in the option for express updates for Windows 10 devices, that's a recent addition to new versions of SCCM. On the whole that would work pretty nicely overall, but because you have to store the differential (express) updates as well as the full cumulative to be on the safe side, there's definitely a feeling that you'd have to at least be able to ensure there's lots of space available on the distribution points accordingly, so something to ponder as well as the custom ports also needed.

I had a good evening overall too blasting out some more Gary Numan including the Splinter album, and for me one definite highlight of that album is the ace Here In The Black (and hence tune of the day). When my friend and I saw this live, Gary was full into it and bounding around and slipped and hit one of his guitars, but got back up and carried on like the true pro. This track led itself ever so well to orchestral backing anyway so really did sound superb the other night.

Tuesday 20th November - Podcast Performance

So, I did something a little different tonight, and that was to be interviewed for a retro computer gaming podcast about some of the old days of retro computing, and some of the stuff I used to do on the humble Commodore 64 back in the day, including magazine contributions and the like. It was something that I'd approached the organisers several months ago about and I thought that it had been forgotten about - only to get a message via Twitter from them a few days ago asking if I'd like to take part, and to suggest a convenient time for me to be able to do it too.

I had arranged for tonight at 7pm, and even though I didn't have a headset mic anymore (my old analogue one being unreliable) I did have the next best thing - I could plug some headphones into the little monitor speaker bar which I have, and in addition as the monitor has two USB sockets, I could add one of my Logitech USB microphones from Rock Band and Guitar Hero on the Wii, and then set that up accordingly to be the primary devices either way. It didn't take me long and in fact the good thing was that I knew that the mic would be quality, paying particular attention not to get too close to make the letter p pop too much.

With the time close to 7, all messaging via Skype was sorted and the live call was then going to happen. I hadn't been sent a list of questions beforehand, which meant effectively I was thinking on my feet, but that would in my view make things much more realistic and nice too. Definitely for me it was good that the presenter was very friendly and approachable, and you could tell that they were seasoned pros and up for a good natter too. In fact that made me more relaxed anyway, so that was all good.

So for around fifty minutes or so we chatted about all sorts, even mentioning the humble Commodore Plus/4 that I had started out with back then and moving on to the Commodore 64 stuff. In many ways although I had originally left some of that behind a while back, I think with a movement towards recognising that in fact those classic eras are now ones which set off the gaming scene as we all know it, I've tried to overcome a lot of my really shy side and to write a bit more about those days. Definitely an enjoyable thing all round to do though, and I'll let you folks know when it's out there so you can have a listen to my not so dulcet tones.

The rest of the evening involved a nice chatter with The Love In My Heart, and that was always nice, especially with Brian the cat wanting his usual cuddles and attention at the same time. I also listened to the Gary Numan album Savage and reminded myself of Saturday's superb gig at the Bridgewater Hall. One of the many highlights on the night and indeed on the album was a storming version of My Name Is Ruin (albeit minus Gary's daughter Persia singing on Saturday) and that is tune of the day.

Monday 19th November - Just Another Manic Monday

Cue Susanna Hoffs: "I wish it were Sunday.." and she wasn't wrong singing that (neither was Prince, who wrote the Bangles classic, either.) In fact I suspected it was going to be one of those days as I had seen on the news (and The Love In My Heart had texted me) that the over-running engineering works near Surbiton were effectively knackering South Western Railway trains into London Waterloo, and that would mean people taking all forms of diversionary routes to get to work today. I thought some of them had gone to Redhill and dived on a train there as my train to work from East Croydon was much busier than it normally is.

When we did get to work things didn't appear to be right somehow: multi factor authentication was attempting to send a confirmation code to the mobile phone as it does, but nothing whatsoever was being received. In fact I found out that this was a global Microsoft problem which wasn't good as anyone who had enabled said systems were completely not in a good way - so effectively anyone using Azure for their authentication in a two factor way was screwed. And Microsoft wonder why people don't want to go to cloud based stuff? Today proved to be a suitable answer to that question.

With me knowing that it would affect a number of things I decided to hold off handing over any laptops for testing to users as the experience that they would get wouldn't necessarily be right anyway, and with a mere four meetings to go to today (three of which were back to back) it was definitely a case of progressing things along as much as I could under the circumstances. And then... a lack of water first of all in the early afternoon, followed by a lack of power in some parts of the building, including the lifts, the corridors and so on.

As time ticked on the facilities management contacted the electrical company who couldn't locate the source of the issue, and so a decision was made that whilst it was still light outside and with the staircase at one end of the building still having some natural light to allow a safe passage, that we should head home and leave the building for safety reasons. It made sense as around half an hour later it would be dark and that would be risky especially if you were on upper floors - the aircon and other systems had failed too, so definitely sensible to do. It was nice to get on a less packed train and tube too!

In the evening I headed home and had a nice relaxed time listening to the likes of KMFDM and Gary Numan, and certainly it was good to bound around whilst playing "Here In The Black" at a good volume too, so definitely tune of the day for that one. Of course it made me think of Saturday night's show with full strings and orchestra, and indeed tonight as he plays the Royal Albert Hall which would be special to head over to, that's for sure. If you're going, enjoy it!

Sunday 18th November - Lazy(ish) Sunday Afternoon

It was nice to have a good sleep after having had such a good time last night seeing Gary Numan live. It was on reflection an ace gig to be at, and massive kudos to my friend for sorting the tickets out. In fact, we were discussing how many different venues we'd now seen Gary Numan at, and it was a fair few: Manchester Academy (a few times), Manchester O2 Ritz, York Barbican, Preston 53 Degrees (now closed), Cardiff Coal Exchange, and Manchester Bridgewater Hall. I reckon it must have been our 10th or 11th time seeing him live, so you could say that we were dedicated...

A good sleep and a good nice little breakfast, plus lots of fussing over Brian the cat, and The Love In My Heart and I were all ready to head out for the afternoon with a couple of our friends for a good catch up and lunch too. In fact they had been to Florence recently and we had looked at the pictures yesterday: it all looked very nice indeed and for me definitely it's another place on the massively increasing shortlist of places to go to. Of course it'll be nice to get some time away to see all of that but we'll see how it all goes.

So it was on the tram and into the city centre and we had a nice little mooch in both Vinyl Exchange and then Magma before heading along to Stevenson Square, where we'd noticed that Rosylee had closed - we found out later this was for good as they'd gone bump. Real shame, that. It was part of the MAD group that also owned Tusk, The Blue Pig, and Walrus - and they closed too. Onwards it was to Port Street Beer House where our friends were there, and had a very nice little dark stout and caught up with some good chattering.

It was then onwards to Pie and Ale for the lunch together, and The Love had booked it and we got the same booth as we'd been in last time. It was an easy decision for the ale: the Jabberwocky from the Blackjack Brewery as a good session ale. In fact our friend and I were going to go for the steak and ale pie but we were told they'd need ages to prepare it, so we both went for the chicken balti pie instead. And that was spot on: a proper pie, filled with chicken and spices, a nice gravy and mash, and really did taste gorgeous. Epic win that was, as was the sticky toffee pudding we had for dessert too.

It was then off to the Mackie Mayor on Swan Street, and seemed a lot less busier than normal, primarily because the weather seemed a little colder, but maybe also because not much else was happening in the city or everyone was hogging the Christmas markets (and finding out it was overly priced.) We had some nice ales in there and The Love had the Moravka Czech lager which she normally has, and it was very chilled out too. In fact because of the lack of noise it was good to chatter anyway and have a very relaxed Sunday afternoon. It felt good not having to rush for a train and before we knew it, it was 6pm!

The Love and I headed back to her place, and Brian the cat got his tea and lots of cuddles from us both before I headed back to the tram station and off to head on the 1935 departure from Piccadilly to Euston. In fact I had some Gary Numan on, so "My Name Is Ruin" is tune of the day as it's still rather ace all round. I had to divert to London Bridge because of the lack of trains at Victoria, and so once there it was through the vortex of the tube station and to the trains, and arriving home at aroudn 11pm. It was a good day all round and showed just how much I treasure the time together with The Love.

Saturday 17th November - Nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuman!

Tonight was going to be a special gig, as Gary Numan was playing the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester along with the Skaparis Orchestra, made up of a conductor and artists that normally are based at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and had been chosen by Gary to do this tour - but with a difference. The Numan songs would have his regular band but there'd also be the orchestra playing, along with a choral section and a full on warm feeling of sounding quite different in a place where the sound always travels really nicely around the venue.

The Love In My Heart and I had got up this morning, fussed a lot over Brian the cat (who attempted to sneak off but his Mummy was having none of that!) and then we headed to see The Love's father for a bit. He seemed well and we had a good natter with The Love's sister as well for a while. We'd actually been to Asda first of all to get some food shopping for him, and it was good to see that he appreciated our efforts - and that meant he was able to have all the stuff in he needed over the weekend beyond too whilst he watched the horse racing and the football too.

Later on my friend came over to collect me, and we headed off to Pizza Hut at the Snipe Retail Park for some well earned food first of all. It was a good move all round as I hadn't been for ages and we both fancied something nice, and I had the meat feast with barbecue sauce and my friend had a margherita but with extra mushrooms too, and that was nicely accompanied by the drinks refills all round. It was good to catch up and natter before we later headed into the city centre, found a spot for my friend's car and stopped off at the Britons Protection for a well earned pre-gig drink too. My friend fancied a brew and got one, and I had a nice little plum stout which was fab.

So into the Bridgewater Hall then and we were near the front which was good, and a pretty good view of the stage all round. Chris Payne came on first, and he and his wife Dominique played some nice electronic sounds with her performing some good vocals too. In case the name sounds familiar, that's because he played with Gary Numan for years and also as a member of Visage co-wrote Fade To Grey, so you can imagine that did get played at the end of the set, complete with Dominique doing the French spoken parts, and it was totally ace. I really enjoyed the set, even more so if the couple behind us would have actually stopped talking. Grrrr. You know how much that narks me off at a gig!

The lights dimmed, the orchestra came on stage, the white curtain dropped and on came Gary Numan and his band, and for around the next two hours we were treated to a blistering set. It certainly had been thought about i terms of composition with orchestra, and the Skaparis orchestra and its conductor Simon Robertshaw even had the same white make up (either straight line or cross) that Gary Numan and band had - and were getting into it as much as the band. I noted particularly the cello player was singing along to most of the songs (she had no mic, but I could tell she was properly into it!)

It was a pretty nice set all round, concentrating as expected a fair bit on the album Savage (Songs From A Broken World) but having some of the back catalogue handled nicely too. I knew that a good few songs from Savage would work, so the intro with Ghost Nation set the tone perfectly. We had Bed of Thorns, the ace single My Name Is Ruin, Broken, Mercy and Pray For The Pain You Serve. Those who prefer his recent more dark Industrial output would have been mightily pleased to hear Jagged, but also I have to say Here In The Black from the Splinter album really suited the orchestration perfectly, and they were going for that big time - definitely the highlight for me and tune of the day for that reason.

In terms of the old classics, some you may have expected, some not. So Metal was a pretty good one to do, and I noted he did the end outro with a bit of M.E. much like Nine Inch Nails' version too (as a NIN fan I approved, obviously) and of course Down In The Park plus full on Are 'Friends' Electric to close the main set with the orchestra even singing along the "Whoa, whoa" parts that the crowd tends to do these days. Films was also very good as was This Wreckage during the encore too. Notable in their absence were both Cars and Me I Disconnect From You, but with good reason - they probably didn't suit the orchestration so well.

Atmosphere wise it was literally electric, with the fans going "Nuuuuuuuuuuuman!" at the end of most songs, and the violinists also belting it out along with us, which showed how much they appreciated it too. Numan himself said that even though he was from London, Manchester audiences always killed it and were superb for him and the band, which was nice to note (after all, he did his 50th birthday gig at Manchester Academy, showing just how much atmos he relishes in these parts). And it was a great gig, possibly gig of the year or at least a contender. Ace, different and epic.

Friday 16th November - Slowness and Solitude

This afternoon at work seemed to be a particular go slow, and not necessarily because it was Friday either. No, the network appeared for some reason not to be behaving itself whatsoever, and that wasn't good really. I was attempting to try and get some work done which involved some configuration checks, but everything was grinding to a suitable halt, so really wasn't worth doing so to be brutally honest. I had at least managed to work out some test plans in the morning and work on also finalising getting the last of the initial test kit built as well, ready for some further testing next week.

It was also a charity fundraising day today for Children In Need too. All week we'd been encouraged to donate £1 whenever we got a coffee from the on-side restaurant and coffee bar on the first floor, which I had done each day as it only seemed the right thing to do to be honest. It was also a dress down Friday day too which we have on occasion, so we all donated £2 as part of that. I think when it's a reasonable request like that I don't mind whatsoever, and I suspect that quite a bit of money was raised (especially as my employer was going to match the total raised by the employees too - a nice touch that.)

The time appeared to be slowing but the time to leave arrived and I had a nice walk down Marylebone High Street later on as partly to see the rather lovely Christmas lights but also to nip into Waitrose there and pick up some Azera coffee for The Love In My Heart: she had been in Asda but was not paying £5 upwards, especially as it was cheaper elsewhere, £3.50 each in Waitrose. The new Co-Op near the office would have been even cheaper if only for the fact they had no stock, but hey ho, such as it is and all that.

Once all done I walked back towards Baker Street tube station and headed inside the Wetherspoons near there to get some well earned tea before getting the train later, so it was good to get a seat, use their app and get some low alcohol Ghost Ship along with a buttermilk chicken burger for a mere £6.55 or so, nice eh? In fact because the low alcohol ale is actually classed as a soft drink for their drink deals, it works out cheaper, and it's actually a pretty decent taste as well (normal Ghost Ship is good stuff) so can't argue with that really.

It was later on to Euston, heading into Pret for a well earned coffee and then on the 8.40pm departure to Manchester Piccadilly. It was relatively calm and had the headphones on anyway as I was listening to some classic KMFDM along the way, including "Animal Out" (make that one tune of the day) along with the likes of A Drug Against War, Sucks and a fair few others. Before I knew it, I had arrived in Piccadilly and was on the tram to The Love In My Heart's place, where Brian the cat had his "come on Mummy, it's bedtime!" look as I arrived. Needless to say sleep was soon forthcoming and a busy weekend ahead..

Thursday 15th November - More Preservation

It was nice to be able to listen to and archive some of the DVD-Audio discs, and that's been working fine generally when there is an advanced stereo 96Khz mix, which at least means it's relatively straightforward to get sorted nicely into a digital form for use later on. The difficulties tend to be more where some of the discs actually have either only 5.1 advanced resolution audio layers, where downmixing to stereo clearly isn't going to work well for some reason, or those where the stereo layer does exist but doesn't seem to be detected by DVD-Audio Extractor correctly, or it's hidden away in some way.

In fact I remembered that some of the audio discs I have aren't necessarily in DVD-Audio packaging, but are either as a two disc set with the second disc being the DVD-Audio version (a number of REM reissues for example) along with a few others where they are just in normal CD sized packaging but contain the DVD-Audio discs (a couple of the Barenaked Ladies albums are of that ilk). It was good to check through those and for a number of the REM reissues look at archiving the nice high res stereo mixes - some of which at the time were slightly controversial because of the way that it appeared to be a slightly different mix - Stand for example on the Green album being a notable one I recall.

In fact the REM reissues were 192Khz instead of 96Khz, so really went for it on the stereo mix side for sure, and they do sound rather majestic when played through the rig. In all, I ended up with a number of those two disc reissues: Around The Sun, Automatic For The People, Green, Monster, New Adventures In Hi-Fi. I already had the single DVD-A disc of Reveal when that came out, so no need really to get the 2-disc set of that. Of course there's some classic REM tracks on there, not least the epic "Leave" on New Adventures In Hi-Fi, so that's my tune of the day - a good friend of mine likes that a heck of a lot too.

In fact listening to a chunk of REM showed just how bloody good they were back in the day. Naturally, Green is my favourite REM album primarily because it's the one that really got me into them big time when I was a teenager, and then went back to discover the other songs. I ended up buying the next few albums on day of release and listening to Automatic For The People a lot at the time for a number of reasons - and in some way why I don't enjoy listening to it as much now because although those memories were lovely, it was a capture of time at the time.

But Green, followed by New Adventures In Hi-Fi, are my top two, definitely. When you consider that indie DJs at the time would often play the likes of Stand, Orange Crush, and Pop Song 89 (even though that didn't get a UK single release!) and people would like listening to them. And.. then there's (The Eleventh Untitled Song) at the end of Green, which I adore to bits (and I'm not the only one..) - because it's such an uplifting song of hope after the rather downtrodden I Remember California before it. That is so gorgeous, so there.

Wednesday 14th November - Preservation

Tonight I decided to get some preservation work done in terms of some of the audio discs I have. Some of you may remember that there's occasional releases of work in multi-surround formats, the most well known being DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD. The latter can have the normal stream played on a normal CD player and so if you need a digital version, all pretty easy. However, DVD-Audio was protected heavily for ages, and even then when someone had worked out how to decode it all, it still needed software capable of reading the DVD-A layers (which is why you need a DVD or Blu-Ray player capable of reading the discs the same way.)

Some of the DVD-Audio discs are ridiculously hard to get now and do command some daft prices, including the likes of Metallica's self-titled album (aka The Black Album), Fleetwood Mac's classic Rumours, and two David Bowie live albums (Live and Stage) amongst those more sought after by fans. I bought them relatively cheaply when available, which sounded like a good move to me. And I also knew that the likes of DVD-Audio Extractor could be used to effectively archive it into say MP3 or FLAC format as needed to have a digital version, even if in stereo (and also useful for say blasting out Metallica full blast on the iPod.)

So I had varying degrees of success all told. Those discs that had a high res 96Khz 2.0 stereo mix as well as the 5.1 mix worked well for digital archiving, not least as the stereo one was similar to the CD but just better produced resolution wise and more wide ranging. Inevitably attempting to downmix a 5.1 advanced resolution surround mix to stereo would never be as good of course. And here's where it got slightly interesting too - the 2.0 stereo mix of Rumours on the DVD-A disc is pretty much as the album was, but the 5.1 mix certainly has been fiddled with in places - none more so than the iconic The Chain (make that tune of the day purely for F1 purposes) where the end part on the 5.1 mix is absolutely awful (and out of sync in places) - but the proper album stereo version, yes, spot on and high res too. Nice.

It was good to blast out some of those albums later on as well, showing just how much of a quality production they are all round. For some of the others, they may allow real time playback of the stereo 2.0 mix, but what that would mean would effectively be a recording of the "what you hear" at the time to ensure you get it done. Doable, but time consuming. In fact it may be well worth me compiling at some point a list of what streams are visible with DVD Audio Extractor to save others time too. Another one for example is the four disc anniversary edition of Jethro Tull's Aqualung, where disc three is the DVD-A disc. It has the 96Khz stereo mix available to extract too. Happy with that.

In fact of course listening to said album is always enjoyable anyway, and one of the finest progressive rock albums ever. There, I said it, but it's true. In fact the remaster really did show just how much was under the hood given some decent production all round: freedom to breathe with Ian Anderson's voice out front, and instrumentation that is much more precise, notably in the anti-religious My God for one. I do have a second issue 1971 Chrysalis LP version of said album so notably easy to compare against.

Tuesday 13th November - Published and Hunted

It was a nice surprise that I had earlier in the day when I noted that an article I had written for the Commodore Format website was published, which detailed my piece of retro gaming music preservation and how I've managed to get a fully working version of the title theme from the game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atantis. Feel free to have a read for yourself, and apologies if it may be over your heads, but it was nice to actually contribute something and feel like I could write a retro gaming article with a difference. There may be more to come as it may prove to be a good outlet for my writing but in something I'm passionate about.

In any case, I have also managed this week to actually fix another long standing bugged title theme, this time from the 1991 Ocean licenced game for the film Hudson Hawk (if you remember it had Bruce Willis in the film). Anyway, this was a bit easier to sort out but it's all to do with how the tune loops and restarts and how one bit of it didn't, making it all sound a tad on the weird side once restarted. Unbelievably as it may sound, it's actually down to just one incorrect byte of data, and correct that, and it all works. Nice, I know, especially when it had bugged me for some time working out just what I needed to do, and a good success all told.

So tonight was also the finale of Celebrity Hunted and after four episodes it was clear the the Hunters were on the tail. Indeed AJ Pritchard only escaped because the driver of the car knew the back way out through the woods and was able to get out and also lock a gate to stop the Hunters following straight away too. In the meantime Johnny Mercer had laid low near to his native Cornwall and was able to get about the rural countryside without too many cameras around, and as an added bonus had let down the tyres of one of the Hunters' cars. Nice move.

It was as The Love In My Heart and I thought a bit of a shame that Chris and Kem (from last year's Love Island) didn't get to the end as a lot of people would have made them out to be daft, but were at least keeping moving and using friends. They did call on friends from the band Union J and one of their fans to take them to a relative's place in Enfield, but the Hunters found them and they were surrounded, so surrended rather than be involved in some chase. They did also let slip the extraction point under interrogation (oops!) so it was then a race against time.

However, Johnny and AJ took different approaches to the power station where they needed to get the rib out of there, and despite a Hunter having one final attempt to jump to their rib, they got away and won, so was pretty pleased for AJ especially. It's proved to be enjoyable and all the celebrities donate to Stand Up To Cancer, so there's some real meaning to what they're doing too. More to the point, there's a trailer for the next series next year for the real people, so that is going to be a thoroughly enjoyable watch. And the title tune is still bloody ace, so tune of the day it most definitely is.

Monday 12th November - Restless

It was a late night back last night primarily as it was a train journey in First Class on the 2021 from Manchester Piccadilly after the game and after The Love In My Heart had made some excellent chicken for tea with all the trimmings too. It was sad to leave The Love, and the train was pretty busy all round, some with fans who had booked a seat knowing it was going to be busy in standard, and others with those who wanted to upgrade. As a result it was the busiest I've ever seen, and still got some coffee and a little afternoon tea of a ham sandwich and a scone with jam and proper Rodda's clotted cream. That went down nicely.

I had managed to get home around 11.45pm and attempted to go straight to sleep, but couldn't do so as much as I could. I was tired after a long journey but knowing I had to stay awake to ensure I got the tube and train fine meant that I was a little bit more awakened by the fresh air. I did however manage eventually to get to sleep, probably had too much on the mind or indeed possibly celebrating too much still from the enthralment of the victory from earlier that day, as you do.

Work today was fine, it was mainly about some meetings and getting a few things organised and sorted out, and also road testing a few things too. In fact the good thing was that I had a chat with one of the Microsoft consultants and that was quite good because it re-emphasised that all the things we'd put in place for checks were all correct and present, and as such that meant that we just had to be sure that we'd then managed to look at other angles for a couple of current issues that we were having, so definitely a plus point there methinks. It does make me wonder too about what else isn't playing ball correctly.

In any case, for some reason, the train to and from work was very busy: much busier than normal. Whether it was the bad weather that was causing people to get on the train or just because it was a Monday and not any part of a school holiday I'm not sure, but certainly did seem a lot busier. I think also this may be that people are trying to get to work a little earlier and so finish a little earlier too, thus impacting. In fact the tube station side of Farringdon was hugely busy, with everyone crammed on to the platform and hardly any room for anyone to get off either - looked a tad dangerous to me.

Anyway, based on the excellent Queen film I saw at the weekend, it was time to put on my DVD-Audio full res 5.1 version of A Night At The Opera album, with the full surround mix lovingly crafted by the orignal producer Roy Thomas Baker along with Brian May too. And you can tell. It's so good, especially with the vocal harmonies really coming at you in nice surround, no more so than the epic vocal parts in the middle of The Prophet's Song, which is epic, and therefore tune of the day. If you get chance to get hold of it, please do..

Sunday 11th November - Derby Day Delight

I always feel nervous on Derby Day. Perhaps more so because it was a case of last season how we threw away a 2-0 lead at half time to lose 3-2, and because you can never predict the result either to be honest. I had a lovely breakfast thanks to The Love In My Heart and indeed we had a nice relaxing morning all told, having had a lie in and with Brian the cat snuggling up at the end of the bed, wanting a tummy tickle a bit of a fuss, purring away happily with his contentment.

After seeing some of the Champion of Champions snooker final, with Ronnie O'Sullivan and Kyren Wilson battling it out, it was a case of then heading to the Etihad with my friend, who was much more confident than me about getting a result today. I think it was because of the way we'd played the last two games, and had our customary brew to think about the game ahead. It was much busier than usual earlier to kick off, with most people heading in early due to extensive searches taking place before you went in and not wanting to miss a piece of the action.

It was certainly nice to have a poignant moment for Rememberance Sunday, having watched the Cenotaph ceremony earlier in the day. They did it right at City, had references to people who worked for both clubs who had died in the First World War, including the likes of Sandy Turnbull who won the FA Cup for both clubs, and with each club logo alongside the Manchester Remembers text, and the Last Post playing. Some idiots decided to boo the United flag - not good, it was not the place and that showed me that some fans still need educating properly about how to behave.

The game started and City went right on the attack with Bernardo Silva going close with a low drive, and also a few times runs down the channels were making chances. But with twelve minutes gone the ball came in from the left from Raheem Sterling, it went to Bernardo who hit it back across the box. It may have been a foul on Sergio Agüero but it didn't matter as David Silva was on hand to get the ball and smash it in for the opener. Delirium everywhere as we celebrated and it was so nice for him to score as well - he's had a habit of that lately it has to be said.

We did have some other chances first half, with Agüero going close after some good work down the left, and it really did feel like we were on top massively. I wasn't getting carried away though and knew that a second goal would help the nerves a bit. And a few minutes into that half, it came. Fernandinho robbed the ball in midfield and sent it forward, and Agüero did a one two with Riyad Mahrez before smashing it past De Gea in the United goal, with a ferocious pace to say the least. It was a cracking finish and 2-0, but still not getting too carried away as we were 2-0 up last time out in the derby.

Indeed as United made changes they brought Romelu Lukaku on and he was fouled shortly after by the City goalkeeper Ederson and gave away a penalty - again - for the second league game running. Anthony Martial stepped up and halved the deficit to 2-1 and it was game on for a bit, although City were still in control and looking forward it just was one mistake away from being all level, so concentration was of the highest order. Could we press on for a third as well though to make the game safe?

With a few minutes left, we got an answer, and then some. City were keeping ball, with the United players nowhere near. Twice it went down the right and back again and we kept pressing. Then as the ball went forward a superb pass from Bernardo Silva found sub Ilkay Gundogan unmarked, and he slotted the ball home. There were forty four passes in that move, and the timing of the run meant that the United defence were stationary as the ball was played through. Absolutely majestic stuff, and come full time we all belted out Supra's version of "Blue Moon" (tune of the day obviously) and were very happy at the 3-1 scoreline. The city is ours, and Manchester is blue.

Saturday 10th November - We Will Rock You

It was an early start for me this morning as I headed off to East Croydon station, and one train and tube journey later I was at London Euston, heading on the 0820 departure to Manchester Piccadilly. The good news was that I'd got my reserved seat, but it was pretty busy overall. Primarily because a number of West Ham fans were on their way to Huddersfield via Manchester for their away trip. They were a nice bunch though and appreciated Pablo Zabaleta as much as us Man City fans did, which was great to see of course.

The Love In My Heart came to meet me at Piccadilly station and we headed back to her place, where Brian the cat was all snuggled up on the duvet and having a well earned rest. He let me give him a lot of strokes and a love, which was nice, and then The Love sorted the bedding out, we had a coffee, and it was nice and chilled. We also went to see The Love's father and sort out putting up some pictures in frames that he had, and that was good to get done - it looked very nice when it was done too, so he was pleased.

When we got back to The Love's place, we sorted Brian out and then headed for the city centre on the tram. The Love still had enough left on her Vue gift card for one more film to go to, so we decided to go and see Bohemian Rhapsody, based of course on the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury in particular. We had got to the centre early and although some bars were busy, we managed to get a spot in Terrace on Thomas Street, and they had real cask ale so that was gorgeous, and it was a nice atmosphere in there too. We headed off later and off to the Printworks, understandably busy with people in town for the Tony Bellew fight at the Arena later that day.

We got the tickets for the 3.55pm screening and had to sit near the front, but that did mean no heads in the way, and thankfully everyone near us kept quiet which is always better when watching a film. It was a really good film too, especially as it even had nods to the early days of the band Smile, and how Freddie joined then before then becoming Queen later on. It was also good to see the relationship with Mary Austin featuring and how the record company exec (so well played by Mike Myers) had no idea how to handle the release of Bohemian Rhapsody either, and of course the rest as they say is history.

Lots of good highlights throughout, such as the Live Aid gig, painstakingly reproduced with the on stage actions being the same. Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury was really good, but I have to also give a suitable nod to Gwilym Lee who played Brian May was superb - the look alikeness was also great too. It was really good that plenty of time was given to some of the behind the scenes discussions over album tracks and how it was often John Deacon who was the calm influence - especially for Another One Bites The Dust. Granted, there may be some artistic licence I grant you, but it was a good film.

Needless to say as we headed back to Terrace for some tea later, I had the songs in my head, including the hugely under-rated "Love of My Life" (which is tune of the day) - and we had some nice food and drinks in Terrace actually. I had the ham and mushroom pizza which was thin, crispy and large and full of toppings, and The Love had the burger which also looked very good - and both mains less than a tenner each too. It was all very nice and lovely, and our afternoon and early evening out was all good. Brian the cat of course wanted lots of fuss and attention later which was more than deserved.

Friday 9th November - The Magic of the FA Cup

After a pretty positive day at work, and having written a good detailed document on the necessary SCCM ports required for the system to operate correctly (which should be something that our network folks will also find useful to ensure that there is a case of checking as required) - it was a reasonably okay journey home, with the train being slightly delayed but not too bad, and the rain holding off until I had at least arrived home, which definitely was a bonus.

Tonight was the start of the first round of the FA Cup, where the non-league sides who had made it through the qualifying rounds met the sides from League One and League Two if the draw went that way. Tonight was Haringey Borough, from the Isthmian League and the seventh tier of the football pyramid, against AFC Wimbledon of League One. It was of course a nice contrast in that Haringey were growing as a club and being a community club, much as AFC Wimbledon arose from the FA mess of moving the old club to become Franchise FC aka MK Dons.

The ground was a proper small ground, they had a 3G plastic pitch, and the rain and wind was making conditions difficult for the presenters, never mind the players. It was a proper cup tie all time round though and the game really was a case of being able to adapt to the conditions, with set pieces coming in thick and fast and chances being created. AFC Wimbledon looked the better side, but Haringey were giving it a good go, the goalkeeper in particular being really positive, getting the ball from corners, and being able to settle things down nicely for the team.

As the second half went on you were half thinking that it might end up being a 0-0 draw at the end, but unfortunately for Haringey, as the 90 minute mark came up, AFC Wimbledon headed down the left and a shot from Pinnock was deflected via the defender and into the Haringey goal, with not much time left for any form of comeback. The defender who was also a teacher was interviewed afterwards and you could tell he was absolutely gutted at the result as well, but should be proud at the way he and the team played too.

In the meantime the new Orbital album arrived and so I was giving that a play earlier. Interestingly the closing track has Professor Brian Cox narrating a piece on that, but when they're at their finest it's just purely lovely instrumental techno electronica pieces. One definite such example and tune of the day for me is "Tiny Foldable Cities" which was also one of the singles earlier on. There's a real sense of new electronica and some old school sounding instruments in there - very nice...

Thursday 8th November - The Cheque's In The Post

So today I arrived home from work, and checked my mail in the mailbox as I usually do. In there was a letter, and inside it was a cheque. Yes, very old school I know, but it was a cheque that I was actually pleased to finally get, and showed that perseverance does reap its own rewards if you were able to keep going and be determined in what you do. Needless to say, I'll be in the bank tomorrow to pay it in, as there's a branch of my bank literally down the road from work which is an added bonus.

So, what was it? Well, if you think back to May of this year and the new timetables for the trains, some went better than others and those that didn't work out very well at all was Thameslink, with lots of promises of such improvements but in fact the service got worse - a lot worse. Lots of cancellations, not enough drivers recruited to drive the trains (a problem that they still have now incidentally) and lack of route knowledge meaning that the trains had to go their previous alternate routes instead and not stop at London Bridge - not a bad thing necessarily but it did mean people diving off trains quickly at East Croydon for example.

Anyway, as I suspected, compensation was more than due and as such a scheme was launched for the regular travellers in order to claim their money back. In my case, it was only going to be a week's worth (for some other stations it was a month's worth) but I of course checked all my validity and then put the claim in. Initially, this was refused despite my proof of monthly Oyster ticket purchases because there was no journey history. Well, there wouldn't be due to TfL only keeping the last eight weeks. So I complained.

And Thameslink conceded that I was correct, and that if I had current proof of the same journey being made then that would be accepted. So all good, and that went back to them via email and I had a response from one of their staff to say that my claim would now be processed but would have to be manually and therefore a cheque would be sent. That was late September, and I had still heard nothing towards the end of October, so I had to send another email to chase them and remind that I was still owed payment as they had promised. Thing is, how many others would have given up at that point?

Anyway, so I got a response, and this time it was then another email to say that the claim was successful and the cheque would be raised. I was still thinking that it might be an attempt to effectively delay payment, and so was going to wait till sometime next week and then chase it up again. Thankfully it arrived and definitely was a case of being rather pleased with myself to get it at long last. In view of that, tune of the day is the excellent "Where Is It Going?" by Orbital - sums up where the cheque was with some brilliant trance tune too. Incidentally, I've ordered the new Orbital album too so am looking forward to hearing that.

Wednesday 7th November - A Walk Down Marylebone

I had had a good morning and managed to set off a final Windows WIM image that I needed to do, with the MDT task sequence now ensuring that for security reasons SMB 1.0 wasn't needed anymore, so that would definitely be a positive to exclude. In fact I got the first one ready, and made sure that was being copied and uploaded whilst I was in a seminar this afternoon with a couple of consultants from Microsoft, which went pretty well and explained some of the Office 365 extra bits and updates functionality that is now added into SCCM including making packages too - which is a nice touch actually.

I decided that a nice walk down Marylebone High Street was in the order of the day at lunch time - it always feels to be a bit of a slower pace and at the same time full of some life and verve too. Naturally this did mean heading towards Daunt Books and having a good mooch around the shelves and the sections, admiring the proper wood bookshelves and the sheer number of different categories and options available, including a huge travel section as well.

It was also nice to mooch around some of the other shops and it was a case of being able to admire the really nice displays that a lot of them are getting in for the next few weeks and the festive period coming up. It certainly felt classy and nice and being in my work clothes did at least mean that I was able to appear smart. The staff in most shops were lovely - and there's also a Waitrose too which is always very busy at lunchtime with everyone nipping in for their sandwiches and other assorted lunch items.

Notably of course the free coffee still exists, if you buy something from in Waitrose with your My Waitrose card, but you now have to bring your own mug for recycling reasons. That's all well and good, and commendable, but that does mean having to carry one around with you too. For someone who does travel light most of the time and doesn't want to be one of those people with a backpack on the back bumping into everyone and everything, not always ideal - maybe as an alternative charge an amount for a recyled paper cup so as to compromise in both cases?

But all in all it was rather nice to walk down and admire the lovely shops and be able to feel quite cosmopolitan. I know on a Saturday afternoon it was suitably nice too when I was here with The Love In My Heart and Mum, and I'm sure The Love and I would have to be back there at some point to mooch when all the festive displays and lights are up too. In the meantime, tune of the day is the excellent "Paddington" by Blancmange, which has a nice catchy hook and had the song in my head as I was walking along earlier..

Tuesday 6th November - Hunted and Home

It was good to be able to get out of work reasonably on time and head homewards, having managed to get a number of things done today and narrowed down nicely. In fact I had spent a couple of hours in a planning meeting with one of our project managers as well, and notably most of the people who should have been in the meeting didn't turn up, so there were only two or three of us. I know that plenty is going on at the moment, but at the same time I shared the view of one of my colleagues in that at least informing you that you weren't going to be there was at least common courtesy.

I did though manage to contribute a lot in that meeting and at the same time was able to put forward some honest views as to where we are and to where we are going to, so definitely for me it was a case of being able to be open and honest too. I do like the fact that a number of staff have embraced my methods of thinking and the no nonsense approach goes pretty far overall - and better to get on and do the job. I did have to stay back to assist with an issue and try to get something resolved, but it was useful to see what the issue was and be able to offer some useful advice.

Later on it was time for Celebrity Hunted, and after last week I suspected that Louis Smith was a tad too cocky wanting to spend time near the home town of Peterborough. Needless to say heading into a shop with hot tubs and hiding in one, with the hunters there, was effectively a sitting duck, so that was a relatively easy capture for them. I think that one of the unwritten rules of that show should be that unless you want to be captured, don't effectively head anywhere near your home turf. Sure, you may have some help but at the same time it's just way too risky.

Kay Burley was also captured and I was pleased about that. I think the stress of being with Jonny Mercer who was basically wanting to be a bit cocky and almost wind up the hunters was getting to her, so off she got out, and got a lift with someone in a Warburtons truck. The hunters were on the trail and at one point the truck almost rammed them as it went around in a circle. However the last laugh was on them as they found the depot where the truck had gone, and soon enough, another capture.

Amazingly despite their scrapes, Chris and Kem, formerly from Love Island, were still managing to escape, even going on to a radio show to wind up the Hunters after they had tweeted a picture of Kem's teddy bear that they had managed to get and place in the Hunters' lair. The ante was being upped by AJ Pritchard too with his mates attempting to box in one of the hunters but not managing it quite, but still, all set for a good finale next week. Admittedly, I do adore this show.

Afterwards it was time to relax with some classic 80s Industrial sounds including the likes of Cabaret Voltaire's seminal "I Want You" along with the great Die Krupps and Nitzer Ebb co-operation tune "The Machineries of Joy". But perhaps and possibly controversially one of my favourite 80s sounds of that time was SPK's "Metal Dance" (and tune of the day) - definitely for me full of beats and Industrial sounds but I think some didn't like the fact Graeme Revell's girlfriend at the time was the singer. But yet the middle part with all the drums and clanging is just a perfect middle section too - awesome..

Monday 5th November - Bonfire Bonanza

I had a loud evening of organised fireworks displays for Bonfire Night going off in the local parks from when I got home from work to around 10pm. It looked pretty spectacular seeing all the sky being lit up by the displays as I looked out of the front room window, and at the same time thinking of how loud it was, and thinking about Brian the cat. He would have been really stressed out, poor thing, with all of that going on. In fact it was only some idiots letting off fireworks near the car park where The Love In My Heartt lives that caused him to not be a happy cat, and he needed lots of cuddles from The Love to reassure him everything was okay.

On the one hand near me, it did go to show that people would at least be prepared to go to organised displays and see a show for themselves that way instead of having some sparklers in the back garden along with other things setting off in all sorts of directions. For me at least I can remember that some of the family weren't always that keen on fireworks anyway, it was more about the family getting together when I was younger. I definitely think that is more the case with organised displays too.

Anyway earlier on I'd concluded the investigation I started on Friday. So effectively ad hoc networks are only supported in part on Windows 10 (even then Microsoft don't actually support it) and that's only if you're using a driver that even supports it in the first place. Intel ones definitely don't, which is what all of the wireless adapters within the machines we have all seem to have, and neither do the Marvell Yukon ones in some Surface Pros (and they're Intel in others, so easy to work out that this isn't really compatible.)

I always have an eye on these things to be sure that everything works the right way round, because they're a steer into our longer term aims at work anyway. Interestingly I also double checked a couple of other things and they appear to be working as intended, apart from one machine, where I suspect that actually what had happened was that because it needed to use a dedicated adapter, the registration of that device was before I'd added in the MAC addresses in SCCM of those adapters to allow duplicate registrations (those who use Surface Pros will understand where I am coming from.)

So a good day all in all, and one which ended with me ordering a few Christmas presents (it seems some retailers have started some sales already which is a good thing) and then from there having a bit of time to chill out with some Orbital. I've ordered their recent release "Monsters Exist" after their reformation last year, and it was time to put on their previous album "Wonky" on. The end track is just beautiful, so "Where Is It Going?" is definitely tune of the day - a proper nice way to relax.

Sunday 4th November - It's Only Six One

It was a nice relaxed morning with The Love In My Heart. We had breakfast together, and Brian the cat was just wanting a lot of fussing. I had had to nip over to Asda when it opened as we needed some bread for the toast for our breakfast, and had got Brian some Dreamies Mix with tuna and salmon as well as a little treat. Needless to say when I opened the bag he was right on it and was giving me that "oh, I look so cute please give me some" look which was pretty hard to resist. To be fair, he loved them and you could tell was rather pleased that someone as well as Mummy was giving him treats.

Later on it was off to the Etihad with my friend to watch Manchester City take on Southampton. After a good win in midweek against Fulham in the League Cup and getting past Tottenham on Monday night, hopes were high for a good performance and a win to take us two points clear at the top after Liverpool had drawn at Arsenal yesterday. Of course I wanted to be sure that City were going to do the business today especially with the Champions League midweek and then the Manchester derby next Sunday.

We got to the ground and had our customary brew and took our spot in Level 2. It was a bright day albeit not that sunny, but not weeing it down. Southampton had brought a fair number of fans considering the very long trip it was for them and the team looked good as the countdown to kick off commenced. Out came the teams, a blast of the classic Blue Moon by Supra (make that tune of the day) and it was off we went to see what we could do. And it was a case of not waiting very long either.

Oh no. In fact the ball was well worked between Leroy Sané and David Silva, and the ball was crossed in and found the Southampton defender Hoedt who kicked it into his own net. 1-0 City with six minutes gone. And six minutes later the lead was doubled as some superb work from Raheem Sterling on the right meant a simple cross across the box and for Sergio Agüero to score a tap in and his 150th Premier League goal for City - the second fastest to reach that total and only the third in history to do so for one team (Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry being the other ones) - so esteemed company indeed.

City went for the kill and a few minutes later the ball was crossed from Sterling towards Sané's head. The header went to David Silva and he blasted it into the net for 3-0. It was almost game over already. Southampton did regroup though and Danny Ings earned a penalty which he scored himself for 3-1 and they did have a number of chances, only for right on half time for Agüero to recover the ball from the defender and place a cross towards Sterling, who after an initial stumble buried the ball home. So 4-1 at half time. Wowzers, amazing stuff again.

The second half was mainly played at a slower pace with Southampton having some chances but on the whole City in cruise control. Agüero headed forward on the break, saw Sterling on the right and the ball was buried through the keepers' legs in the back of the net for 5-1. And right at the end, with a number of fans already left, Sterling passed to Sané and his shot was fumbled in by the keeper for a final score of 6-1. The second 6-1 at home this season and the fourth league game with a five goal margin of victory, which is pretty epic stuff all round. All bodes well for next week and the derby then...

Saturday 3rd November - Birthdays and Bohemians

It was a nice relaxing morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat: he was being as cute as usual, and wanting lots of food and Dreamies along the way. The Love made some lovely breakfast and we got ourselves ready, taking it all relatively easy for a Saturday. In fact I had slept pretty well overall so was pleased to be able to have rested somewhat and to get a nice fresh shower to wake up with - and certainly nice too just to wind down a bit and not have to rush off anywhere.

We headed to The Love's father's place, and had a good chat with him and The Love's sister, and her nephew called as well so it was nice to say hello to him from Taiwan and be able to catch up. He was explaining how he started to watch Bodyguard on Netflix which made us all giggle, because of course we'd seen the whole series on BBC before the show was sold over to Netflix for worldwide viewing. We did mention that it was a great series though and well worth watching to the end - and no spoilers from us, we wanted him to find out for himself along the way.

We had some time before heading off to my Mum's, so it was over to Levenshulme and indeed we noted a new shop opened where the bookmakers used to be - called So Marrakech. I must admit it was a nice shop, they had lots of home stuff and a coffee shop at the front where you could get nice coffee and cake too - a clever move that because it would get people in, and a good place also to be able to chill out. We went down the road to Station Hop where the cherry stout I had was simply gorgeous, and the atmosphere really nice all round. Damn it, why wasn't any of this here when I lived in Levenshulme till 2015?

Anyway, we headed to Mum's and all was nice. It was her birthday today and we'd taken her out last Saturday for a meal when she was at mine, and so dropped off her card and gift. It was nice actually because we could have a brew, some carrot cake and see both my brothers, especially as one was still over from Japan as well, so that was nice. In fact it was good to catch up generally and we were all quite relaxed - time went too quickly though and so we headed back to The Love's place later as Brian the cat would be wanting his tea for definite!

We headed to the local Chinese for tea later and I got the rather nice crispy shredded chilli beef, and The Love got the roast pork Kung Po, and we settled in for the evening with Pointless Celebrities and then Strictly Come Dancing. I must admit I did like Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice's dance the best, they really did come out and give it some. I also think that it was a case of either her or Ashley Roberts with Pasha Kovalev winning the thing - they both have been superb throughout. Tune of the day though is what was danced to earlier in the show - the ace "Call Me" by Blondie - an instant 80s classic.

Friday 2nd November - Back Up North

It was a good day today all told, primarily as I was able to get on with a number of things at the same time and to be able to carry out a thorough investigation into something I'd been asked to check over. In the old Windows 7 build they had an option for a specific ad hoc network for wireless, so users locally working as a team could connect with each other should they so desired. Having tried to do the same addition with the same wireless profile in Windows 10, it appeared not to play ball using the exact same profile and referencing the same network interface - which did strike me as rather odd.

Anyway, I decided to look into it a bit further, and so with a freshly built Windows 10 laptop, I dug down further. I made sure wireless only was on and then attempted to do the same command for adding the network with the XML file of the wireless profile. I noted an error code, which was intriguing. The error code came back to the fact that one of the connection types mentioned in the wireless profile appeared not to be fully supported. That was notable at least and gave me a second avenue of discovery.

I looked up more on the error code and managed to work out more what it was. Effectively, in the old days of ad hoc, you'd have a connection type of IBSS, and all was good. However, a number of wireless network card manufacturers decided that this sort of connection would be phased out in Windows 10, and with later drivers basically removed the functionality so that you couldn't add it. This was further proven by the fact on a lot of the web forums people were effectively rolling back drivers to the Windows 8.1 versions (in itself a little risky as most likely they're not WHQL signed either...) So intriguing stuff and more to check over on Monday morning.

I then headed off on the 27 bus to close to Euston and off to the Crown and Anchor pub for a nice pre-train drink, and I have to admit that the rather nice ale was on good form tonight, so pretty pleased all round really. It was cosy and I did get a seat, so was quite pleased to soak in the atmosphere and it was already dark outside due to the clocks going back, so for the next few months or so at least it's going to be like that on a Friday night train journey up, so worthy of note. I listened to some Kraftwerk on the train including the ace "Computerwelt" title track from the German version of said album so that's tune of the day for me.

I got to Manchester Piccadilly and The Love In My Heart was there for me, and we headed back to her place and Brian the cat even was being nice to me and letting him tickle his tummy (which he never does!) We snuggled up and watched some Gogglebox first of all with everyone being scared witless by one of the series on Netflix, then we watched most of The Last Leg, which was pretty funny - and nice to have AJ Pritchard and Lauren Steadman from Strictly Come Dancing on (Lauren is para-triathlon champion, so perfect to have on The Last Leg of course). It was good to be back up North with my love though.

Thursday 1st November - Haircut One November

So it was off to James Barbers in Wimbledon Park after work and to get my hair cut, which badly needed doing to be honest. It's not that far to walk from work to Edgware Road tube station to be honest, and you can walk along Crawford Street and see some very nice little places including a nice looking Swedish delicatessen, I may have to pop in at some point and see what nice beer that they have from that country, and possibly a good change on occasion - as they say a change is as good as the rest.

Once at Edgware Road the District Line train to Wimbledon was in, so it was a case of getting on and of course guaranteeing a seat as this is where it starts from, and heads down to Notting Hill Gate before then Earls Court and following Southbound past Fulham Broadway (nearest stop for Chelsea FC) and then over the River Thames at Putney and on its way towards Southfields and Wimbledon Park itself, and it's always good to head to the barbers, chat football, listen to some decent tunes on 6Music and generally make sure that the cut is all good and at a fair price too - as per usual.

It was then on to Wimbledon and then the tram home to Croydon, and once home I noted to The Love In My Heart that Paul Weller was on the BBC Red Button channel, with a gig recorded at the Radio 2 studios complete with orchestra. It was a good gig all told and The Love eventually sacked off Emmerdale and watched the rest of the gig, with him playing not just new album solo stuff but also some Style Council songs and then early solo classics, such as the brilliant Wild Wood (make that tune of the day as it sounded ace) - and that definitely was good to see. The Love did wonder how you get tickets for that sort of thing..

I also did watch later on some of the Manchester City v Fulham League Cup game. City did make a number of changes but it was good to see that it was still a decent side, and the likes of Brahim Diaz and Phil Foden had a run out as well, which was awesome. In fact Diaz scored both goals for City as they cruised to a 2-0 win with the only question mark being a potential injury to Kevin de Bruyne late on, but good to see that the Blues cruised and it was a quarter final with either Leicester City or Southampton lined up in December. Happy days being a Blue it has to be said.

It's been a long week and definitely will be a happy time seeing The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat. In fact The Love managed to find a very early picture of Brian when he was a kitten and he looked absolutely adorable and tiny but hiding in a paper bag seemed to be his thing even then (he loved that now!) and it was nice to see that he's grown up so much and become so adorable and lovely. I'm sure when he sees me he might be all cutesy, awww, he's just ace.